Although it is unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be arrested soon after the International Criminal Court issued him an arrest warrant, former U.S. officials as well as war crimes prosecutors claimed that the former KGB agent’s life was drastically changed after the announcement.
Experts said that Friday’s court accusation that he was responsible for the war crime of unlawful abduction and deportation children from Ukraine to Russia, locks him in his status of an international pariah, which will severely limit his travel options outside Russia.
“The result of all this is that he won’t travel to any place he believes he might be arrested,” stated Todd Buchwald, special coordinator for the Office of Global Criminal Justice of the State Department under the Obama and Trump administrations.
Although the ICC does not have a police force, the warrant “cordons” the 123 countries who signed the statute that created it. This is because Putin is at risk of being arrested if he visits any of these countries, according to Buchwald, a law professor at George Washington University.
These countries are required to issue arrest warrants regardless of rank. However, most governments adhere to an international legal principle that states have legal immunity from the courts.
It is not clear how many countries would follow through to arrest the president of a nuclear-armed and oil-rich country with a history that includes assassinations and revenge.
Dmitry Peskov Putin’s press secretary rejected the court’s findings. “We don’t recognize this court and we don’t recognize its jurisdiction.” “This is how we treat it,” he stated in a Telegram posting Friday.
Putin must also consider the possibility of being detained and flown to The Hague, the Netherlands, where the court is located.
Wayne Jordash (a British lawyer) said that the warrant “puts pressure upon any future Russian government.” He is also leading teams of international and local prosecutors and investigators in Ukraine. He said, “If they wish to normalize relations with the international community then there’s an easy way to do that: turn him over for trial.”
It is not unusual for a country to turn over its leader before the court for war crime.
According to Dermot Groome who was responsible for investigating and prosecuting Milosevic at The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, the 1999 arrest warrant for the then-sitting President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic issued by the United Nations Yugoslav Tribunal in Bosnia for war crimes committed there, “became his vehicle to remove him from Serbia.”
Groome, who is now a Penn State Dickinson Law professor, said that he grew tired of his rigid grip on power and his wasteful treatment of the lives of young Serb men from neighboring Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Milosevic was killed before the trial could conclude, and the limitations of the ICC are well-known. Omar Hassan al-Bashir (the former president of Sudan) has been indicted, but has not been arrested in any countries where he traveled.
However, the court convicted 10 others, including Thomas Lubanga who was found guilty of war crime in 2012 for using child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There is some hope that the warrant for Putin will decrease violence and brutality in Ukraine. Russia has already paid a heavy price for its actions since February 2022, when it invaded. Some estimate that Russia lost approximately 200,000 soldiers during the first year.
This alerts Russia that international prosecutors are monitoring the regime’s actions in the field. Experts said that this could make some Russian officials rethink their decisions about executing orders that could put them in legal trouble.
Buchwald stated that it “puts pressure” upon Putin’s circle to “disengage themselves from him”.